torontopia

Tour Jilly's Strip Club with Christopher Hume (the Toronto Star, safe for work)

Very little of the interior, but as per usual a great commentary from Hume.

I used to pass Jilly’s every time I went to visit a friend who once worked as a live-in nanny in Leslieville. While even the mere thought of strip clubs makes me uneasy,  there was always something that seemed to be untoward about the imposing building with the PG13-rated signage. Perhaps it was the smell of marijuana and beer that wafted from the sketchy looking people who seemed to be running some kind of low-hustle on the corner and in the shelter provided by little cubbies in the building’s brick facade. I always walked on the South side of Queen until I had  passed it. At that time, that part of the East end was just beginning to see the green shouts of gentrification.

I think that Hume is right about the place being targeted for renewal as a boutique hotel, a la the West end, in the near future. I was in the area for the first time in years back in October and I could hardly recognize it. In my view, this is a good thing.

Also, the closing shot of Hume sitting in the club, with a beer and woman literally gyrating the background, is one of the best executed shots that I’ve seen all year.

Toronto(pia) as the spiritual promised land.

When I was attending public school in exurban Ontario, every grade eight class had to take a day-long field trip to Toronto to see and do “Toronto things,” like seeing the GAP store in the P.A.T.H subterranean shopping mall, riding on the TTC and visiting the Toronto Stock Exchange back when there was an actual trading floor. The motivation behind this trips was to expose country bumpkins to life in the big smoke, as a matter of culturing us and making us face the fear that all of us supposedly had of the Big City.

I took a pass on this trip, because I found it demeaning and because school trips to Toronto always ended up with my parents forgetting to pick me up from school and me sobbing uncontrollably, cold and alone, in the parking lot until it got dark and they realized that I was missing. Other students were really excited for it, thinking that a day trip to Toronto would be a transformative experience, akin to returning their spirit to its home. The one goth kid came to school the day of the trip with her look turned to eleven, as far as small town goth fashion was concerned (a Nine Inch Nails t-shirt, black skirt, fishnet stockings and black nail polish), perhaps imagining that she’d encounter a fellow goth on the street and that they’d become fast friends. Similarly, the group of boys who had just discovered hip hop were jazzed by the prospect of encountering actual urban black men, like the ones from Naughty by Nature videos. While they boarded the bus, I went to spend the day doing mindless busy work in a classroom with students in another homeroom who had gone on the trip the day before. I got to listen to their classroom discussions about how “unique”, “interesting” and “different” Toronto was, and how some couldn’t wait to grow up and move there. I tried not to laugh while I struggled with math problems.

In high school, I was hanging out with the faux-burn-outs (read, white kids who smoke a little pot and came from good upper-middle-class homes and would ultimately do well in life), playing guitar in the smoking area, while they discussed their plans to move to Toronto after graduation. “I have to move there. I’m drawn there,” the girl with maybe fifteen facial piercings said in an impassioned tone. “That’s where my people are.” That’s when the significance of Toronto finally hit me.

Toronto – where small town weirdos go to meet and fawn over the uniqueness of other small town weirdos. Such is the consequence of being a city with a high concentration of colleges and universities and being the long-time hub of a national economy that turns on economic migration. This is why anyone who refers to themselves as a “life-long Torontonian”, or something to take affect, actually grew up in Eastern Mississauga. Actual Torontonians, transplants or not, self-identify by their respective neighbourhoods, perhaps because they want to disassociate themselves from

Having gained this knowledge too early in life really messed me up, because it kept me from envisioning my soul being received in Toronto. I’ve never had that rank Canadian drive to risk it all and relocate to Toronto or, even Vancouver for that matter. It might be symptomatic of my dislike of everything Tim Horton’s.

When I was a teenager, Toronto represented Saturday day trips to “the Big HMV”, Tower Records and Sam the Record Man to buy seven-inches and back catalogue CDs that you couldn’t find in the suburbs and beyond, capped off by Extra Value meals at the Eaton’s Centre McDonald’s and being picked up by a friend’s mom at the Yorkdale TTC station. There isn’t any magic, just shame and regret, in shopping trips. 

As an adult, Toronto is an overpriced, boring and unconvincingly pretentious city. It’s meeting liberal phonies at the Centre for Social Innovation for demeaning “job” interviews – meaning internships disguised as paid work – with their media and tech start-ups. It’s having to pick coins, sticky from stall beer, off of slippery bar tops because bartenders aren’t courteous enough to drop your change into your hand, citing illogical health concerns (you’re already handling dirty money, literally, how does dropping it in my hand constitute poor hygiene?) but really it’s because they expect you to leave it there as a tip. It’s paying $1500 a month to live in a shoebox in Regent Park, where you still have to take a bus to find fresh produce beyond what one might put into an iceberg lettuce and orange dressing salad. Save for gawking at and announcing the make and model of the luxury cars that pass through Yorkville on an early summer Friday night, everything else is totally inaccessible to a person of limited means and zero prospects, such as myself.

Recently a friend, who gently insists that I move out of my parents basement and get on with my shitty life, told me that she could land us a one bedroom, with bunk beds mind you (which only adds to the awesomeness of heterosocial cohabitation), for $1200 in the city’s “Junction” neighbourhood. That’s where people my age who’ve actually made something of themselves and even deliberately created new lives go to sustain, with the benefit of status and wealth afforded them by “Creative” labour, the otherwise encumbering and embarrassing kidult lifestyle for a few more years before moving to the suburbs. The presence of this class has steadily revived this quaint little enclave that used to shutdown at 6pm into something novel. In other words, it’s what those who dreamed about Toronto created when they stopped dreaming and actually started living it. Something like the suburbs, but unlike the suburbs.

youtube

In a hilarious video that’s gone viral since its release Friday, a man dressed in a full Batman costume is seen around the city – on the subway, outside City Hall, in a Starbucks — asking (rather, screaming) at passersby : “WHERE ARE THEY?!”

Presumably “they” being the bad guys.

At the climax of the video, Batman gets a beef jerky stick (“original, not spicy”) and screams about his parents being dead while two excited girls hug him outside the Eaton Centre.

The man behind the mask is Toronto resident and stand-up comedian Alex Brovedani, who can switch between his normal voice and Batman’s deep, throaty growl at a moment’s notice.

I went to college with Alex and I take full responsibility for putting his life on the ruinous path that follows broadcasting school. He was a nice kid studying to be C++ programmer when I stopped him in the student lounge to interview him, in character as an Australian kangaroo boxing commentator, and put the idea of transferring into the broadcasting program into his head. If I could take back time…